October 25, 2021

How Do You Know If You Have Confidential Data?

data audit

Most people’s eyes glaze over while reading about ‘data management’ but having an effective data audit or data management process in place is key for the longevity of your business and gaining that competitive advantage. Treating your data as a valuable resource helps ensure you’re protected in a cybercrime attack or an accidental (or deliberate) data breach. What’s unfortunate is many companies don’t know the type of data they own, let alone that they own confidential data. The big question is: if you don’t know the type of data you have, how can you protect it appropriately? Herein lies the problem. We’re going to show how you can ensure the data you own is secure, protecting you and your business in a devastating cyber security incident.

Kinds of Data – PII vs PCI

In 2020, the number of data breaches in the U.S. hit 1001 cases, with over 155.8 million individuals affected. Personally identifiable information (PII) is any personal information that can be tied to a person, like first and last name, social security number, email address, passport number, etc. PII is by far the most valuable data a business can own, but it also can be the most dangerous if it’s not taken care of appropriately. A PII data breach has serious negative consequences that can be felt for years. That’s why it must be managed effectively.

There are a bunch of different groups of data with different legislation associated, such as PCI (payment card information) and GDPR (EU privacy requirements). PCI is any sensitive credit card information, such as the credit card number and expiration date, and the purpose of GDPR is to ensure organizations maintain a secure environment for any confidential data. With all these different types of data groups and standards to follow, things can start to get complicated but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s recommended to have a partner help you with this review process, to figure out where your at-risk data is. That way you can take the right steps in protecting it and your business. 

Do You Need to Do a Data Audit?

Organizations know how important data is for decision-making and the overall health of a business. However, many lack a systematic and consistent plan that ensures data quality. Running a data audit gets you started on the right path. It assesses your existing data with a focus on improving its quality and integrity.

There are two types of data audits you can do to help categorize your data: manual and automated. A simple analogy is to compare it to the military where there is ‘classified’ and ‘unclassified’ information. All these terms might sound a little scary or intimidating, but a data audit provides you with huge benefits. First, it improves your business operations. Second, it safeguards your data integrity and makes it easier to remain compliant with government regulations while giving your business more credibility. The third benefit of a data audit is if an issue crops up, you’re able to address it faster because you’ve already mapped out what data you have, as well as where it all lives. There are more benefits associated with auditing your data, but now that you understand the key ones, let’s get into the manual data audit process.

How to Do a Manual Data Audit

Some companies will do a manual compliance audit for you. If your resources are already stretched thin, you might want to hire a third party to help manage this process. Keep in mind, though, that hiring a third party isn’t always necessary. There are some instances when you can audit your data in-house. For example, someone in your sales team has a list of clients, with their names and credit card numbers in a spreadsheet on their desktop. That’s a situation where you don’t need an outside company’s help – you can figure out what data you have fairly easily yourself. If you’re looking for assistance though, a managed services partner, like BT Partners, can help in taking some of the pressure and effort off your staff. We can guide you through the manual audit process, so you have peace of mind knowing exactly what confidential data you have where, and that it is 100% protected.

What’s an Automated Data Audit?

The second way we mentioned that you can audit your data is through automation. This can be helpful since human error and manual entry are the main causes of data inaccuracy, with the average company losing 12% of its revenue as a direct result. If you use SharePoint as your repository, Office 365 will automatically comb your data and categorize it into the possibly 300 different PII sections. This is a great place to start in determining what information you have, and it’s all done electronically so less room for human error.

Next Steps

You’ve completed the data audit and you’ve mapped out where your data is stored. Now you need to determine if it’s currently being used (or not), or if you might need to access it in the future for some reason. Any data that is no longer needed should be destroyed or protected – essentially rendering it useless to criminals. Don’t hold the door open for cybercriminals to gain access to your business. For the data you currently use or the data you might need in the future, this is where data security and cyber insurance come into play.

Cyber Insurance

Data compliance is more much more important than it seems on the surface and is the reason why cyber insurance is so important. Cyber insurance helps you to rebuild if your data gets breached. It’ll also assist with legal support, should it ever come down to that. In most cases, business insurance is for floods, earthquakes, or fires, and cyber insurance is a separate policy. Make sure you add it! To figure out what type of insurance coverage you need, an insurance carrier can help. They work with you to determine what information you have so that you get the appropriate coverage.

A key benefit is that if you have a cyber incident and are attacked or affected in any way, the insurance company may bring in a cybersecurity firm and an attorney. They will help you handle it and get you back to business as quickly as possible. A managed services partner can answer the insurance company’s questions when setting up the policy to make sure they have all the accurate information to properly cover you in a cybercrime incident. So, don’t feel like you have to go through this stressful and tedious process alone. There are people out there that work closely with you to sort out any of your puzzling data details and support you when you need it most.

Nowadays, not having a robust data management strategy is unacceptable and potentially dangerous. Implementing a data audit should be done in every business, no matter the size – small, medium, and large-sized businesses benefit from data security. Our team of experts can help determine your goals and specific needs so that you choose the right data audit process for your company while also ensuring you have the right coverage and protection both now and in the future.

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